Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Didn't Quite Make It...

Well, this is my last journal entry for my Writing and the Teaching of Writing class.

We are winding down, and the goal for the course was to have 30 or so journal entries.  I have fallen short.

I have not fallen short in other aspects of the class, and I'm most pleased with my work this semester.  A quick spin through earlier posts reveals an uneasiness with this piece of the course, though, from early on.  I settled on the blog format mostly for ease of sharing, but what I find is that a blog feels very public to me, and a journal feels more private.  I could have kept a Google Doc and perhaps then I would have met the requirement--or perhaps not.

I like what I have posted here, and while I don't expect that I actually do have much of an audience, the blog being inherently public suggests that there could be an audience, and knowing that inspired me to write a lot of what's here.  If I were just keeping a journal in my Google Drive for myself and for Dave (the course instructor), I would have probably had a tough time sharing a lot of what ended up here.  Instead, it would likely have my notes for the elevator speech, my plans for my portfolio piece, brainstorming for my "This I Believe..." essay, pages and pages of notes that became my Writing Development plan, and so on.  I would not have had 30 entries, but I could easily have put those preliminary writing bits in it.  But I simply could not bring myself to put that stuff here.  I mean, when I'm done writing a post, the little button I click says, "Publish."  Publish those early notes!?  I don't think so!

So there it is.  I'm confident I've done a lot of writing and reflecting and drafting and experimenting.  I've done some of it here, some of it elsewhere, and some of it even in my hand-written journal.  It's all good (which I think is how I began my posts for this course.  Yeah.  Still true.)

Monday, May 05, 2014

Bad Mommy Moment

A student in my Creative Writing Class recently gave us the prompt "Concoct a lie."  As my heart tends towards memoir and away from fiction, I ended up mining my own life for a lie, and I didn't have to reach terribly far back in my memory.  Here is what I wrote.  (Note: this is not my finest moment as a mother!)
***

When I yelled, I told her she needed to "just go away from me--across the room, upstairs, whatever."

She bolted, but a minute later I heard her small whimpers and sniffles from the stairwell.

Resolutely I kept writing--a love poem it was.

All the wile, I lamented her interruption, her rising extra early to interfere with my quiet morning work time.

In reality, the cats woke her up. (Who left her door unlatched?  Was it me?)

In reality, she came down stairs (wearing her fairy dress), said good morning, sat quietly and looked through her own journal.  After a time, she found a page she did not like, and she ripped it out.

And then she swelled with regret at the thing that could not be undone.

She came to me.

She showed me the torn page, tears on her cheeks, and I felt the familiar ache of that particular sort of knowing: knowing she had intentionally broken something--her own writing, a seemingly small thing but so, so big to her.  And to me.  I had done the same thing when I was young, impulsively destroying and then regretting the destruction.

But while my hug was heart-felt, my writing task waited.  I denied her pain and felt impatient.

I explained for the thousandth time that early morning is Mommy's time to work, and please don't look over my shoulder.  Please understand.  You must understand.  And then I lost my temper and told her she needed to move away from me, across the room, upstairs, whatever it took.

There was enough emotion between us to fill twenty love poems.

At that moment, I should have been all hers, living my love poem instead of pushing love away for a page of cliches.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

MGP Launch

I just assigned a multigenre paper as the final project for my creative writing class.  Such a no-brainer!

The gals (I've only got gals in the class--five of them!) have spent the period reading student samples.  It's been nice.  And they have been so engaged.  In just the first few minutes there were no fewer than three positive comments about the nature of the project.  I think it is a relief to do something different than they have been doing.

Looking back at my past student samples is also always a treat.  I have some incredible Multigenre Research Papers in the stack, too.

I'm looking forward to what this group produces.  Such a nice way to end their senior year...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Writing Process

I've been thinking a lot about my writing process during this course about Writing and the Teaching of Writing (gee--that's shocking).

I find it interesting that I kind of/sort of have a rough process, but it definitely varies from project to project.

For example, sometimes I start in my hand-written journal.  I have very clearly established in my head that it is ok to write anything there and it doesn't have to be good, which can be very freeing.

Sometimes I think I want to type my early draft or notes about something, but if I'm not sure what it will be or where it's headed, I don't feel like I have a good online space for that, and my journal is really the only place that will do.

But if I have an assignment of sorts, I've started using Google Docs.  I create a doc, and if there are criteria (as for an assignment) I copy those in first, and then go from there with brainstorming, then drafting, then revising, then deleting all the old notes, or copying the "good stuff" to yet another doc (but I don't do that very often).

This is a relatively new kind of thing, as I've only been using Google Docs for a few years now.  But I love the way it saves my history and saves my new stuff and keeps it all in one document.  It's like building a little treasure trove.

I colleague of mine and I both teach AP Language and Composition.  This is her first year teaching it and my second.  We are working together, doing units roughly simultaneously, and we've organically evolved an organizational system/planning process that I have become extremely fond of.  We settle on a rough topic, create a google doc that we generally call a Parking Lot, and we both start dumping ideas and resources into it.  As the unit evolves, the Parking Lot gets revised, and now we've got several of these shared docs filled with ideas and resources, and they will be incredibly helpful come next year.

My thinking/writing/planning processes have really evolved with the advent of Google Docs.  I'm fairly organized with my google docs files, and I save relatively little to my hard drive anymore.

This course has made me think about that process, and it has made me think about how I teach "writing process."  I know for me that I just have a sort of feeling about how I want to start something--whether on paper or on my computer--and I tend to just go with it.  Do my students have that "feeling"?  Are they still trying to find their way?  It seems an interesting conversation to have.

For a study group I'm part of, we created a little survey about how students use Google Docs.  One of our questions asked about how organized their Google Docs files are.  A large-ish percentage of students said that their files are not really organized at all, but only a very small percentage said they'd like help in developing an organizational system.

I have no idea what to make of that...but I know high-functioning adults at both ends of that spectrum!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ramblings and Musings on Assessment

I need to get my head straight before I can post my own assessment process or add to the class Wiki on assessment...my thoughts are ALL OVER THE MAP, so this is going to be a spot where I attempt to do a little thinking through writing.  That usually helps, and I'm going to trust in the magic of it here.

I just read all kinds of stuff--from the CCCC and NCTE, as well as that swell article by the middle school teachers about how they rethought assessment and ended up doing some cool collaborative work.  Then I looked at what my classmates have already posted on the topic. As I read, my thoughts flitted through roughly a zillion different topics, including, but not limited to:

  • Oh my god I am a terrible assessor of student work.
  • I like my rubrics.
  • I hate my rubrics.
  • I wish my school would have a common plan/strategy for writing assessment!
  • I am so glad my school doesn't have a common rubric for writing assessment (even though we have tried repeatedly to implement one).
  • I do not have anywhere near enough time to grade all of the papers I get.
  • I don't give my students enough feedback.
  • My students need to write more and in a wider variety of genres.
  • Are my assessments formative or summative?
  • How can I do more formative assessment and do it in an organized way?
  • How on earth can I find time to gather and interpret data from formative assessments in a timely and meaningful way?
  • How can I make all of this good stuff happen NOW (or starting next week) for my unit on Romeo and Juliet?
  • I really need to set clear learning goals/targets each day for my students, not just vaguely in my head and my planbook.
  • I am not a careful, effective, talented teacher.
  • I am being melodramatic.
  • I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TIME!
  • When I tried to do some major interventions with specific students around writing recently, it seemed somewhat beneficial to them, but so incredibly time consuming to me that I could never sustain that kind of work.
  • I am not challenging my highest level thinkers/writers anywhere near enough.
  • Differentiation is hard.  Assessing it is even harder.
  • If I reward effort, what about the kid who tries hard but does not meet the standard?
  • How many students have I crushed with a series of low scores circled on a rubric--regardless of my attempt at supportive comments?
  • How do we get our students to care?  Shouldn't they be working at least as hard as I am?
  • I am a hot mess when it comes to assessing.  And here I thought I'd made a lot of progress.
  • Casco Bay High School's Habits of Work--I like this idea--I think.
Ok, so where to go now?  What to focus on?

What I do:
I try to use department rubrics when I can (mostly for freshmen);  I use AP rubrics for AP students.  I believe in the standards identified, but the subjectivity slays me every time.
What I want to do: Be more mindful of goal setting and assessing whether or not my students have met the goals.  I can (or should be able to) keep this simple at times.
What worries me: Finding the time.  I feel like I have too many students/too many responsibilities to really get to know my students as people and as writers (same thing?).

Am I ready to post?  Eh...yeah.  I think so!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Portfolio Piece...

So I've been working on my portfolio piece for a little while now, and I'm pretty excited about it.  I'm enjoying the process of remembering, note-taking, and photo-gathering.

My project is going to be a piece on Exposure, on a subject I've been ruminating on and meaning to write about for years now.

The trouble I'm finding is that I don't want to share it with anyone yet.  Not even parts of it.  My parents have the vaguest notion what I'm up to because I've had to ask them for some photos, but I have never explained even to them what I'm doing.

I haven't shown my drafts to my husband or my colleagues or any friends.  And I most definitely haven't posted anything about it on the Moodle site.

What's up with this?

It's making me think about my process for writing this sort of thing.  I find that the following are true:

  1. I like this sort of project (just as I loved creating my multigenre).
  2. I can't wait to share it...when it's ready.
  3. I don't want folks looking at it until I'm pretty close to done.
  4. When I'm pretty close to done, I may...may...reach out to someone for a bit of specific feedback.
  5. If I reach out to anyone, it's going to be a writerly friend or a family member.
  6. The thought of posting my "work-in-progress" to the forum is mortifying.
I am not sure why all of this is, especially as I understand and appreciate constructive feedback.  I guess I just want it on my terms.  Even with the multigenre assignment, I found it hard to share pieces of it early.  I managed, but it wasn't a terribly helpful experience and I did it to meet the assignment requirement.  I think these sort of projects through in broad strokes, gathering details, making lists, and not really drafting until somewhat late in the game.  After a flurry of intense writing activity, I'll tinker here and there, tweaking this and rewriting that, until I'm satisfied.

I think I'm going to stick with that for this project.  Because I'm finally getting to a topic I've been wanting to write about for some time, it feels really personal (though it isn't any sort of harrowing life story/memoir/drama).  It also feels important.  I'm looking forward to sharing it with the class and with my family...when I'm ready.

p.s.  I'll meet the deadline.  Deadines are no problem, but I won't be ready to share until then, I don't think.  Hope that's not a problem for the course!  If it is...well...I'll just go back to Wormser and Capella's creativity guideline #5: Don't worry about what should be because there is no should be!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Young Writer

My kiddo is 6 years old, almost 7, and she loves writing.

Maine Writing Project Pencil at work!  (Not even entirely staged for the photo!)

It's 5:41 AM and she is sitting next to me at the kitchen table working on page 3 of her latest story.  It's about three kittens, Toop, Loop, and Clumsy, who at the moment are living at a pet store.  They like it, but they also wish to get adopted by a pet owner.  They find the other animals in the store to be great friends and they like the vet, but it's sad when other pets leave the store.  Oh, and Clumsy is the smartest of the bunch (she's using irony.)  There is a lot of dialogue (with quotation marks), and a good sense of character.  She is writing on paper her teacher gave her ( a stack of loose-leaf) that she is keeping in a binder she got for Christmas.  In general, the kids are not supposed to bring miscellaneous stuff from home to school, but her teacher gave her (and her friend) the thumbs up to bring these binders because the two of them do tons of extra writing for fun at school.  Who could complain about that?


I could not be more proud.  What English-Teacher-Mama wouldn't be?  (What Mama in general wouldn't be?  It's my job to be proud of my gal.)

But this isn't just a brag post (I try not to do those too much).

We've been conversing a lot in ERL 590 about killing the fun that writing and reading can be, mostly by drowning our students in argument and informational writing assignments.  I think my daughter has enjoyed the different types of writing they've practiced at school (using the Lucy Caulkins Writing Workshop model).  She enjoys reading both fiction and non-fiction, and writing them as well.  Though I've noticed a decided switch to an interest in fiction in the last few months.  I wonder if stories are just starting to make more sense to her now.

Abby is careful about her writing and she wants her story to be just right.  She talks about sharing it with her teacher, and she frequently reads what she's written aloud to me.


I must say...Abby has started a zillion stories, and I'm not sure she's finished any of them.  But that's ok.  One day she'll get to "The End," and then most likely she'll start a new one.  I hope!